The Metropolitan Opera Presents: Season 20, Episode 4

James Levine Gala (27 Apr. 1996)
"Live from the Metropolitan Opera" James Levine Gala (original title)

TV Episode  -  Music
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Title: James Levine Gala (27 Apr 1996)

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Episode credited cast:
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Roberto Alagna ...
June Anderson ...
Cecilia Bartoli ...
Carlo Bergonzi ...
Montserrat Caballé ...
Vladimir Chernov ...
Ferruccio Furlanetto ...
Nicolai Ghiaurov ...
Jerry Hadley ...
Thomas Hampson ...
Marilyn Horne ...
Gwyneth Jones ...


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Release Date:

27 April 1996 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

One of the Greatest Opera Events Ever!
5 July 2004 | by (Miami, FL) – See all my reviews

Though this event lasted virtually eight (8) hours, I consider the appearance of four (4) outright opera legends of the 20th century as the highlight of this most amazing day of my life. These artists were:

CARLO BERGONZI - He stopped the show flat out. He sang here at an alarming 72 years of age! An age when most singers have long since retired. But not Bergonzi. His voice and his charm rang out through the Metropolitan Opera House with all of the experience of his long career and the audience was most appreciative. Most singers this night received two (2) curtain calls. The audience kept calling him back. When you thought enough was enough, the audience clamored for more. This is a singer for the ages.

BIRGIT NILSSON - The reigning Wagnerian soprano of many years sadly only sang a few token bars from "Die Walkure" along with her Scandinavian panache in a spoken tribute to James Levine.

ALFREDO KRAUS - Was greeted with an immense reaction from the audience as soon as he appeared on the stage. This singer who left us in 1999, was almost 70 years old when he appeared for this tribute. He stole the audience's heart with his patrician, refined way of singing made famous many years ago. He was called back by the audience for several calls. A more elegant singer has never appeared on stage.

GYWNETH JONES - Let's call her Dame Gwyneth for these proceedings. She was 60 years old when she stepped on the stage to sing one of the most demanding arias in all of the literature from Turandot. Her voice vibrant, powerful and exciting still after such an illustrious career. I can still hear those high notes ringing in my head. What a marvelous singer! The audience was beside itself....even the orchestra percussion banged on their drums in tribute to her amazing singing drove the audience crazy. Not to mention an elegant knock-out of a woman at any age. can see why one might very well believe these were among the last of a golden age of singing that will not resurface for many years.

There were many other great singers that night as one can see by the listing on the main page. It is not necessary to mention them all. Yes, Placido...Yes, Jessye...Jane Eaglen, Kiri Te Kanawa..OK...I'll stop.

But surprisingly Pavarotti who was ill that night - didn't even show up! He could have showed at least to say thanks. But no. Sigh. Don't hate me. There is no excuse for that man's vanity...I won't say more since I met him twice many years ago. The less said the better.

It is sad that we don't see and hear any more broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera on television. I am fortunate to have recorded some of these which are still not available. And I can understand why -- the pesky business of musician's residuals can be a daunting task considering the many hundreds of people that it takes to put these wonderful shows on.

ALL IN ALL -- this was a night to remember. The singular DVD/VHS of this evening falls short of the wonderful collection of singers that were assembled that night. There were only 20 of the actual 43 selections on the item on sale.

Let's not forget the most amazing opera orchestra in the world, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra played for all those hours on end! Switching from one musical style to another with the aplomb and skill that boggles the mind with its virtuosity and greatness.

Alright, alright...yes, there's James Levine...who stood there and brought us this entire himself! Rather ironic when one has to work for one's own tribute! Ha! James Levine has changed the face of opera in America like no other man in my memory. He deserved this tribute...too bad he couldn't have sat this one out and enjoyed it from an orchestra seat. But then we might not have had his unique and thrilling interpretations of some of the greatest music every composed.

No other opera company in the world could have pulled off this astounding evening.

Do I recommend this? There is no question.

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